The 9/11 Commission Report
The 9/11 Commission Report

The 9/11 Commission Report

About five minutes after the hijacking began, Betty Ong contacted the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, via an AT&T airphone to report an emergency aboard the flight. This was the first of several occasions on 9/11 when flight attendants took action outside the scope of their training, which emphasized that in a hijacking, they were to communicate with the cockpit crew. (Location 411)

Note: AT&T

The Hijacking of United 175 (Location 454)

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At 8:59, Flight 175 passenger Brian David Sweeney tried to call his wife, Julie. He left a message on their home answering machine that the plane had been hijacked. He then called his mother, Louise Sweeney, told her the flight had been hijacked, and added that the passengers were thinking about storming the cockpit to take control of the plane away from the hijackers.48 At 9:00, Lee Hanson received a second call from his son Peter: It’s getting bad, Dad—A stewardess was stabbed—They seem to have knives and Mace—They said they have a bomb—It’s getting very bad on the plane—Passengers are throwing up and getting sick—The plane is making jerky movements—I don’t think the pilot is flying the plane—I think we are going down—I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building—Don’t worry, Dad—If it happens, it’ll be very fast—My God, my God.49 (Location 481)

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Note: Call from the plane

The Hijacking of American 77 (Location 495)

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The Battle for United 93 (Location 534)

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At the same time, Boston Center realized that a message transmitted just before 8:25 by the hijacker pilot of American 11 included the phrase, “We have some planes.”65 (Location 546)

The hijackers attacked at 9:28. While traveling 35,000 feet above eastern Ohio, United 93 suddenly dropped 700 feet. Eleven seconds into the descent, the FAA’s air traffic control center in Cleveland received the first of two radio transmissions from the aircraft. During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer could be heard declaring “Mayday” amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit. The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later, indicated that the fight was continuing. The captain or first officer could be heard shouting: “Hey get out of here—get out of here—get out of here.”71 On the morning (Location 573)


The FAA and NORAD On 9/11, the defense of U.S. airspace depended on close interaction between two federal agencies: the FAA and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The most recent hijacking that involved U.S. air traffic controllers, FAA management, and military coordination had occurred in 1993.90 In order to understand how the two agencies interacted eight years later, we will review their missions, command and control structures, and working relationship on the morning of 9/11. (Location 654)

Interagency Collaboration. The FAA and NORAD had developed protocols for working together in the event of a hijacking. As they existed on 9/11, the protocols for the FAA to obtain military assistance from NORAD required multiple levels of notification and approval at the highest levels of government.101 FAA guidance to controllers on hijack procedures assumed that the aircraft pilot would notify the controller via radio or by “squawking” a transponder code of “7500”—the universal code for a hijack in progress. Controllers would notify their supervisors, who in turn would inform management all the way up to FAA headquarters in Washington. Headquarters had a hijack coordinator, who was the director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security or his or her designate.102 If a hijack was confirmed, procedures called for the hijack coordinator on duty to contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) and to ask for a military escort aircraft to follow the flight, report anything unusual, and aid search and rescue in the event of an emergency. The NMCC would then seek approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide military assistance. If approval was given, the orders would be transmitted down NORAD’s chain of command.103 (Location 715)

American Airlines Flight 11 FAA Awareness. Although the Boston Center air traffic controller realized at an early stage that there was something wrong with American 11, he did not immediately interpret the plane’s failure to respond as a sign that it had been hijacked. (Location 739)

At 8:24:38, the following transmission came from American 11: American 11: We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you’ll be okay. We are returning to the airport. (Location 750)

Note: We have some planes

American Airlines Flight 11 (AA 11) Boston to Los Angeles 7:59 Takeoff 8:14 Last routine radio communication; likely takeover 8:19 Flight attendant notifies AA of hijacking 8:21 Transponder is turned off 8:23 AA attempts to contact the cockpit 8:25 Boston Center aware of hijacking 8:38 Boston Center notifies NEADS of hijacking 8:46 NEADS scrambles Otis fighter jets in search of AA 11 8:46:40 AA 11 crashes into 1 WTC (North Tower) 8:53 Otis fighter jets airborne 9:16 AA headquarters aware that Flight 11 has crashed into WTC 9:21 Boston Center advises NEADS that AA 11 is airborne heading for Washington 9:24 NEADS scrambles Langley fighter jets in search of AA 11 United Airlines Flight 175 (UA 175) Boston to Los Angeles 8:14 Takeoff 8:42 Last radio communication 8:42-8:46 Likely takeover 8:47 Transponder code changes 8:52 Flight attendant notifies UA of hijacking 8:54 UA attempts to contact the cockpit 8:55 New York Center suspects hijacking 9:03:11 Flight 175 crashes into 2 WTC (South Tower) 9:15 New York Center advises NEADS that UA 175 was the second aircraft crashed into WTC 9:20 UA headquarters aware that Flight 175 had crashed into WTC American Airlines Flight 77 (AA 77) Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles 8:20 Takeoff 8:51 Last routine radio communication 8:51-8:54 Likely takeover 8:54 Flight 77 makes unauthorized turn to south 8:56 Transponder is turned off 9:05 AA headquarters aware that Flight 77 is hijacked 9:25 Herndon Command Center orders nationwide ground stop 9:32 Dulles tower observes radar of fast-moving aircraft (later identified as AA 77) 9:34 FAA advises NEADS that AA 77 is missing 9:37:46 AA 77 crashes into the Pentagon 10:30 AA headquarters confirms Flight 77 crash into Pentagon United Airlines Flight 93 (UA 93) Newark to San Francisco 8:42 Takeoff 9:24 Flight 93 receives warning from UA about possible cockpit intrusion 9:27 Last routine radio communication 9:28 Likely takeover 9:34 Herndon Command Center advises FAA headquarters that UA 93 is hijacked 9:36 Flight attendant notifies UA of hijacking; UA attempts to contact the cockpit 9:41 Transponder is turned off 9:57 Passenger revolt begins 10:03:11 Flight 93 crashes in field in Shanksville, PA 10:07 Cleveland Center advises NEADS of UA 93 hijacking 10:15 UA headquarters aware that Flight 93 has crashed in PA; Washington Center advises NEADS that Flight 93 has crashed in PA (Location 1101)

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Note: Planes Chronology


Note: Read this chapter

Inside the NMCC, the deputy director for operations called for an all-purpose “significant event” conference. It began at 9:29, with a brief recap: two aircraft had struck the World Trade Center, there was a confirmed hijacking of American 11, and Otis fighters had been scrambled. The FAA was asked to provide an update, but the line was silent because the FAA had not been added to the call. A minute later, the deputy director stated that it had just been confirmed that American 11 was still airborne and heading toward D.C. He directed the transition to an air threat conference call. NORAD confirmed that American 11 was airborne and heading toward Washington, relaying the erroneous FAA information already mentioned. The call then ended, at about 9:34.194 It resumed at 9:37 as an air threat conference call,* which lasted more than eight hours. The President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley all participated in this teleconference at various times, as did military personnel from the White House underground shelter and the President’s military aide on Air Force One.195 (Location 1260)

The President and the Vice President (Location 1295)


2.2 BIN LADIN’S APPEAL IN THE (Location 1525)

Bin Ladin’s Worldview (Location 1567)

History and Political Context (Location 1600)

Social and Economic Malaise (Location 1630)

Bin Ladin’s Historical Opportunity Most Muslims prefer a peaceful and inclusive vision of their faith, not the violent sectarianism of Bin Ladin. Among Arabs, Bin Ladin’s followers are commonly nicknamed takfiri, or “those who define other Muslims as unbelievers,” because of their readiness to demonize and murder those with whom they disagree. Beyond the theology lies the simple human fact that most Muslims, like most other human beings, are repelled by mass murder and barbarism whatever their justification. (Location 1654)

2.3 THE RISE OF BIN LADIN AND AL QAEDA (1988–1992) (Location 1672)


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The Embassy Bombings (Location 1980)



The Justice Department and the FBI (Location 2112)

Other Law Enforcement Agencies (Location 2271)


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Reportedly, the 9/11 hijackers were instructed to use items that would be undetectable by airport checkpoints.58 (Location 2389)